cosmic charlie dupree
Jan 8, 2010 2:50pm
Arrival of Deadheads causes a stir in Mill Valley
A little current events reading....http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_14148525
MARIN COUNTY —In the world of the Grateful Dead, Mill Valley has become Mecca this week for Deadheads from across the country who have descended on the normally serene little town for a series of "live rehearsal sessions" by Furthur, a new band formed by the two surviving members of the Dead who live in Marin County.
But the unadvertised series of intimate shows — featuring former Grateful Dead bandmates, guitarist-singer Bob Weir and bassist Phil Lesh — have stirred mixed emotions in Mill Valley.
Some see this as an economic windfall, bringing glamour and excitement to Mill Valley. Others complain that unsavory Deadheads without tickets have been trashing their downtown, hanging out and causing trouble.
"I want to welcome everybody, but this is a little beyond what Mill Valley can handle," said Doug Canepa, co-owner of the Mill Valley Market, who has accused Deadheads of defecating in his driveway and stealing from his store, among other complaints he has lodged with the city.
"What is the city's role in this?" he asked. "Is this what the city bargained for when they issued them permits?" Conversely, Vasco restaurant in the heart of downtown couldn't be more accommodating, extending its dinner hour from 10 to 11 p.m. and giving Furthur fans a 20 percent discount on meals.
"They've been great," hostess Annie Bresnahan, 28, said Wednesday night before a show. "They're very sweet. They come in before the show and they eat and they come back afterward and eat more. They usually pay with cash, spend a lot of money and tip well."
At The Depot, a popular bookstore and cafe, there have been no problems, and a small uptick in business, said Leonard Jay, bookstore manager. He said he and his staff had to laugh when a woman from out of town asked whether Mill Valley was safe after dark.
The unprecedented run of "rehearsal sessions" at the 225-seat Masonic Hall and the slightly larger 142 Throckmorton Theatre are in preparation for the first national tour by Furthur, which Weir and Lesh have named in honor of Ken Kesey's psychedelic bus.
In addition to Weir and Lesh, the band includes Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane, Joe Russo and lead guitarist John Kadlecik, who has been recruited from the Grateful Dead cover band the Dark Star Orchestra.
"This is a once in a lifetime experience," gushed Deadhead Louie Lardo, a 48-year-old director of a drug and alcohol treatment center who traveled all the way from Pittsburgh, Pa., to attend as many shows as he could get tickets for. "That's why I'm here." On Wednesday, Lardo was at the front of the line outside the Throckmorton Theatre along with newly-made Deadhead friends from around the country, including Jeremy Grossbard, a clean-cut 40-year-old veterinarian from Phoenix, Ariz., wearing a Polo windbreaker over his tie-dye T-shirt.
"While we may not all live in Mill Valley, there is something hometowny about this," Grossbard, a Deadhead since 1984, said. "This run of shows will be one of my fondest Grateful Dead memories. Unfortunately, tomorrow is my last night, then I'll have to go back to the real world." He and Lardo had waited in line all day to be among the first to get in, ensuring a coveted spot in front of the stage.
Tickets for the Mill Valley shows, which were available for $25 on the band's Web site and limited to one per person, have long been sold out. The band plays at the Throckmorton Theatre until Sunday, then returns to the Masonic for two final shows Jan. 11 and 12. There are no tickets available for any of the nights.
"It's positive that we have this kind of activity downtown," said Lucy Mercer, founder and executive director of the Throckmorton Theatre. "But there are no more tickets, and we're hoping that there won't be problems caused by a big mass of people coming down thinking they can get in. They can't." The first sessions at the Masonic, on Dec. 27 and 28, seemed to catch the town unprepared for the Deadhead encampment of psychedelic-painted vans and buses that materialized as if by magic in the public parking lot beside city hall.
Canepa described the scene as "like Garberville," referring to the Mendocino County town notorious for its marijuana trade and hippie lifestyles.
In response, the Mill Valley Police Department has added extra patrols in the area, using existing staff.
"We've had mostly sanitary-type issues, people urinating and defecating in some of the neighborhoods, and we've had an arrest of someone being drunk in public," said Interim Police Chief Angel Bernal. "We want to have a strong presence without being overbearing. We want people to have a good time, but within the law."
Bernal said his officers have been working closely with the black-jacketed security people from San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium, who have been hired by the band.
"We have worked with the people running the show to police the area, and they've been very cooperative," Bernal said. "The people who pay for their tickets and go inside are behaving. It's the people without tickets who basically are causing the issues. We're keeping an eye on that."
For Weir and Lesh, this has been a homey way to rehearse for a tour, practicing in the hall during the day, going home for dinner and returning in the evening to go on stage, usually just after 8 p.m.
For two superstars, they have tried to keep their presence as low-profile as possible, banning reporters and photographers and discouraging publicity.
"We don't want any problems," said manager Matt Busch. "We want to be able to do this again."
Contact Paul Liberatore via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.